(Off) Season of Giving

As we wait for the return of our regular bloggers in mid-September, we have invited a number of people to guest blog for us. Today’s post is from Anubha Momin.

By Anubha Momin

Even when our economic climate was not as volatile, the idea of “off-season shopping”, whether it be for clothes, vacations, or homes, has been an option for frugal buyers to receive a little more for a little less. The idea behind off-season hunting is to take advantage of particular conditions – no one really wants to buy a bikini in the dead of Canadian winters – to save money. However, the same principle can be applied not in the acquiring something for yourself, but in the act of giving what is yours to others.

Yes, giving. The season for giving, of course, is that sparkly, jingly time of year known as Christmas. Summer on the other hand is seen as a period of personal luxury, a vacation or escape from school and bad weather (well, not this year…), a time to pamper yourself with lazy days and carefree nights on patios or under stars. It doesn’t have the marketing of December to fire our altruistic tendencies, but in reality, the summer is actually a great time to donate some of your free time to local organizations who can always use enthusiastic volunteers. One has the opportunity to investigate charitable positions, as a sort of “trial run” before the added pressures of class schedules and school deadlines. Hopefully, the experience will be rewarding enough that students will decide to incorporate their volunteering into their schedules all year round. In that vein, this post will highlight a few volunteer positions that are easily accessible from campus. The listings here are by no means exhaustive, but will attempt to introduce some unique opportunities within organizations that are (I think) not heavily publicized.

Dress Your Best

Who they are: Dress Your Best is a registered charity that aims to provide clothing and accessories to clients who are referred to the organization via non-profit training agencies. They outfit women, men, and even children, with new or gently used clothing to help them make the transition into the workplace or schoolyard. Dress Your Best believes that everyone deserves to look and feel their best, and that clothing can do more than just cover – it can create confidence.

What you can do: Volunteers can take on a number of positions, from administrative to communications. For any fashionistas” out there, Dress Your Best offers an opportunity to put your sartorial knowledge to good use as a volunteer within their boutique. Boutique volunteers serve as personal shoppers, helping clients choose appropriate styles and selecting wardrobe staples to suit individual needs and body types.

To apply: Visit a Dress Your Best Boutique or email volunteer@dressyourbest.ca.

More information: www.dressyourbest.ca/volunteer.php

Kensington Gardens (Restorative Care Program)

Who they are: Kensington Gardens is a long-term care facility which caters to clientele with a broad range of mental and physical impairments. As part of the Restorative Care Program, exercise is combined with other rehabilitation services to improve the residents’ quality of life by promoting personal growth and healthy living. Residents are led by staff and volunteers in the Restorative Care Program through a variety of low- to moderate-impact activities. Each activity is presented in a fun and exciting manner, combining the use of equipment, such as light weights or bouncy balls, and upbeat music. Though there is a focus on physical health and well-being, the ultimate goal is to aid residents in regaining or maintaining their physical and personal independence.

What you can do: Kensington Gardens offers its residents several options for physical activity, including yoga, dancing, and aerobic exercise. Volunteer placements involve working with the exercise programs, which include group exercises on each floor, large group exercises in the Multi-Purpose Room, and one-on-one exercise programs in clients’ rooms. Volunteers can aid in setting up and removing equipment, helping residents to and from their rooms, and conducting exercise routines. Usually, volunteers participate in the exercise activity, which can be quite amusing – especially the large group dances!

To apply: Contact Amy Seto at aseto@tkhc.org.

More information: www.tkhc.org/volunteer.htm

Fred Victor Centre

Who they are: Fred Victor Centre began as an outreach program for homeless and transient men, focusing on locating housing, but has expanded to serve all those in need of shelter and social services. They are committed to providing not only food and shelter options, but also social contact and skills development. They are also involved in advocacy for the homeless or impoverished.

What you can do: Volunteers can become a part of one of the centre’s committees, working on fundraising, advocacy projects, or special events. Direct interactions with clients can also be had as part of the Community Computer Club. The Club offers several services, such as Back-To-Basics, in which volunteers help clients with basic mathematical, linguistic, or computer learning. Or, as part of the Employment Resource Centre, volunteers can assist clients in searching and applying for jobs online, or creating or editing resumes.

To apply: Contact Diane Duhamel at dianed@fredvictor.org.

More information: www.fredvictor.org/volunteer.html

Eva’s Initiative

Who they are: Eva’s Initiative was named after Eva Smith, a counsellor who sought to help those in need, especially youth. The organization provides services for at-risk youth that include counselling, assistance with employment, and recreational activities. The emphasis is on creating a place of learning and opportunity, where young people can gain the skills necessary to live happy and healthy lives.

What you can do: There are numerous volunteer positions in several sectors, including mentorship and tutoring. In addition, Eva’s Initiative conducts several specialized workshops, allowing volunteers to pass on their individual skills. Examples include music or art classes, and even cooking classes, where students are educated on nutrition and proper preparation of simple meals. Volunteers in all positions provide more than just assistance in conducting the centre’s activities; one can serve as a role model for the young client base, demonstrating the benefits of a productive life that Eva’s Initiative endeavours to foster in its children.

To apply: Visit www.evasinitiatives.com/PDF/VOLUNTEER_APPLICATION_2008.pdf for the application form.

More information: www.evasinitiatives.com/volunteers.php

In addition to being rather interesting, all of the positions described in this post offer flexibility in terms of availability and frequency. I hope that all readers will take the time to visit the websites of each of the organizations listed, and maybe even send an e-mail for further inquiries. If none of the opportunities here spark your interest, I urge you to visit volunteertoronto.ca, a veritable resource for all things volunteer-related in the city. You will be surprised at the diverse range of options for volunteering in Toronto, and I suspect you will find an opportunity that suits your schedule, location, and interests. A few hours a week will still allow summer to remain an oasis of sunshine and idleness, only with a side of the warm and fuzzy feeling Christmastime affords, without the need for snow suits or ridiculous decorations.

Anubha Momin is a recent U of T grad and a graduate student in Public Health at King’s College, London. You can visit her blog at ecriredestartines.wordpress.com.

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